EMC's Cloud culture

Chief information officer, Sanjay Mirchandani, talks about how the biggest challenges of EMC's Cloud journey weren’t technical

"If you try to force virtualisation and highly virtualised infrastructure into the classic ways of managing IT, you’ve lost the plot" - EMC chief information officer, Sanjay Mirchandani

"If you try to force virtualisation and highly virtualised infrastructure into the classic ways of managing IT, you’ve lost the plot" - EMC chief information officer, Sanjay Mirchandani

Like many companies, EMC looked to the Cloud as a means to address growth, reduce costs, and manage a data centre that was rapidly approaching 100 per cent utilisation.

Unlike most other companies, however, EMC is a technology company, owner of the dominant vitualisation provider, and embarked on its journey — in 2004 — long before the term ‘Cloud’ became ubiquitous.

The timing means it has already completed the first two phases of the migrating to the cloud. The first phase, IT production, involved consolidating and virtualising IT infrastructure and optimising the data centre. The second phase, ‘business production’, aims to deliver application services from a virtualised infrastructure. The company is now well into phase three: IT-as-a-service.

The phases had their technical challenges, such as security, server consolidation ratios and monitoring and logging virtual applications and infrastructure. But CIO, Sanjay Mirchandani, says fellow chief information officers in the midst of their own journeys must look to the weakest link — people — to avoid the biggest challenges.

For one, and as the analyst and strategy firm, Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG), notes in its examination of EMC’s cloud move, it is easier to change technology than behaviour. While CIOs may implement a new technology and change the way IT infrastructure is deployed fairly quickly, they must also understand the impact on the organisation and the transformation that will ensue.

“Fundamentally, I spend a lot of time with my leadership team on the fact the [infrastructure-as-a-service] phase is causing us to run, govern and consume technology differently,” Mirchandani says. “In some cases, it is an evolution and in others you have to make it a revolution, because if you try to force virtulisation and highly virtualised infrastructure into the classic ways of managing IT, you’ve lost the plot.”

Mirchandani says that with advanced stages of virtualisation and the Cloud, CIOs must manage a cultural change which moves IT staff beyond roles and into competencies.

“In converged infrastructure, like a V-Block, you have network, management, storage, compute, security and virtualisation all in one converged box. So who looks after that box first? How do you troubleshoot issues that live on a converged infrastructure?” he asks.

“Classic IT silos between systems, networks, applications, databases have to be torn down and you have to create a layer that transcends all that. Does this mean creating new roles? Probably, but it is more about the competencies.” As ESG also notes, the ease of acquiring cloud infrastructure services can make end-users feel that resources are unlimited. Without implementing chargeback mechanisms, it can be difficult to slow the acquisition process. At the same time, while chargeback can make departments more responsible, it may not be worthwhile to implement the additional tracking and accounting process.

“The conversation is moving from IT capabilities to service delivery, so there is a change in jargon, approach, roles, nomenclature. There is a fairly substantial transformation for IT,” Mirchandani says. “I am trying to create a service catalogue of capabilities — both on the business and the technology side.”

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Tags virtualizationcloud computingemcSanjay Mirchandanivirtualisation

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